Photojournalist documents “West Michigan Pike” for possible historic certification

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Traveling on US-31 between New Buffalo and Ludington over the past two weeks, photojournalist Vincent J. Musi shot 7,000 photographs as part of project that could result in a new historic designation for the scenic Lakeshore highway. 
Michigan’s Beachtowns Association hired Musi, whose work appears in National Geographic Magazine, Time, Newsweek and other publications, to artistically and visually promote US-31/Blue Star Highway/The West Michigan Pike for certification as a Michigan Heritage Route.

Built between 1911 and 1922, the scenic roadway was the first modern continuous road between Chicago and Mackinac City, and is responsible for opening the Lakeshore to automobile tourism and changing the way of life along its path.

“I’ve done a lot of work on vanishing culture things, particularly on Route 66 and other places that swept through an area and left their mark,” says Musi. “Route 31 swept across Western Michigan and left all this culture and kitsch. I’m only catching a slice of time to show what it’s like to cruise from New Buffalo to Ludington in 2008.”

Musi drove the route and photographed “whatever kind of felt right, like landscapes, monuments, kitsch, juxtapositions.” Some of that includes The Douglas Dutchers Vintage Baseball Team and 103-year-old Saugatuck artist Sylvia Randolph.

Musi will narrow down the 7,000 photos to 40 exhibit-quality prints to exhibit in museums around the state. In November, he returns to the area with the prints and a number of additional slides to launch the exhibit with a public presentation on his experiences and travel.

The certification process is led by Michigan’s Beachtowns Association in conjunction with the Michigan Historical Center and other organizations, and is funded by grant monies.

“Route 31 is the anti-homogenization of Middle America,” Musi says. “It’s still distinct and different, the right blend of quirky things left behind.”

Source: Vincent J. Musi; Felicia Fairchild, Saugatuck-Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau (courtesy photo of the photographer working)

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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